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Solar dermatitis is a form of sun poisoning that causes a rash on the skin due to exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Those with pale skin are at a higher risk of developing solar dermatitis than those with more pigment cells, or darker skin. Solar dermatitis can begin to develop within minutes or even hours of sun exposure and may start out looking much like a sunburn. Red blisters often begin to develop on the skin and can cause moderate to severe itching. This type of sun poisoning can often be prevented by applying sunscreen and rarely requires medical intervention, except in the most extreme cases.
Exposure to the sun can worsen the effects of aging and increase the risks of certain types of skin cancer in addition to causing solar dermatitis. Therefore, the best preventive measure is to wear sunscreen before sun exposure. Those who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the sun should consider using sunscreen all year long instead of just in the summer. A sunscreen with an SPF of at least 10 is recommended, but an SPF of 25 or above is preferred. Avoiding exposure to the sun when not absolutely necessary is also beneficial.
For mild to moderate cases of solar dermatitis, the treatment options are basically the same as for sunburn. Place cool washcloths over the affected areas to help sooth the pain. Then apply lotion to the burned skin, preferably a lotion containing aloe vera. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams can also provide relief to many patients. The patient should drink plenty of water and take frequent cool showers in order to keep the skin hydrated. Just as in cases of sunburn, it is normal for the skin to peel with solar dermatitis, so this symptom alone should not be much of a cause for concern.
In more severe cases of solar dermatitis, medical attention may be required. If headache, nausea, or chills develop and the pain is severe, the patient should see a doctor right away. Treatment will depend on the amount of damage done to the skin as well as how many of the skin's layers have been burned. Hospitalization is rarely needed for cases of solar dermatitis, but it has been known to happen. A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in skin disorders and is typically well qualified to treat this type of skin injury.
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